With the captivating news of R&B superstar R. Kelly facing charges for various sexual crimes (rape, prostitution, child pornography, etc.) , it's opened up a world of successful musicians we've listened to and admired that have been accused of committing sexual violence throughout the decades.
R. Kelly was first suspected of sexual crimes back in 2002 when a video of him having sex (and urinating on) with an underaged girl. He was found not guilty because the victim refused to testify. This was big news at the time but seemed to be quickly forgotten about, and Kelly's career continued. It wasn't until 2017 when news broke that R. Kelly had been running a sex cult, allegedly sexually abusing women, more child pornography, decades of abusing aspiring singers, as well as Kelly illegally marrying a 15 year old Aaliyah.
The Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly had a massive effect: many singers removing collaborations from streaming services, and even his record label dropped him. Kelly is currently being held without bail, awaiting trial.
Since the #Metoo movement has made survivors of sexual violence talk more openly about their experiences, as well as testifying, Hollywood is beginning to take notice of sex crimes and is showing signs of no longer tolerating it (Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein to name a few). It got me thinking about the music industry and if there was any more publicized sexual violence. I found a lot of information, some more scandalous than others, and how society reacted.
Jerry Lee Lewis and Myra Williams (Brown)All That's Interesting
Jerry Lee Lewis is known as one of the first controversial rock stars. Marrying his first cousin once removed, Myra Williams, when she was 13 (Lewis and his management claim she was 15) while he was 22, scandal struck lightning fast. His music was blacklisted, his friends turned on him, few venues would hire him to perform. During the late 1950s/1960s, it wasn't uncommon for minor girls to marry older men; it wasn't recognized as pedophilia, women still being viewed as objects and homemakers. Jerry made a career comeback with a new country sound, and the scandal faded away. After 13 years of marriage, Jerry and Myra divorced, with Myra claiming to have been abused mentally and physically in "every way imaginable." Maybe all a predator needs is a change in sound to be forgiven for their sins.
If something like Jerry Lee Lewis happened today, there would likely be no comeback, but it would definitely keep them in the news, which still breathes some life into their career, keeps them relevant (see Doug Hutchinson and Courtney Stodden).
Ted Nugent and Pela Massawhosdatedwho.com
Ted Nugent, best known for being a rock guitarist in the 1970's, and being an unapologetic gun advocate in the 21st century, he seems to attract trouble no matter what he does. Like many rock stars, Ted had a weakness for young girls. Too young. He began dating 17 year old Pele Massa when Ted was the young age (sarcasm) of 30. It gets more bizarre. He legally adopted the girl, getting consent from her parents (Nugent talked about it on Behind the Music, but has since retracted). Unsurprisingly, the marriage didn't last.
Nugent sang about his appetite for underage girls in the song "Jail Bait":
"Well, I don't care if you're just thirteen,
You look too good to be true I just know that you're probably clean
There's one little thing I got do to you."
Elvis Presley and Priscilla Presley are one of the most iconic couples in rock 'n roll. But overtime, society has changed, and the opinions and admiration has changed. 24 year old Elvis first met Priscilla when she was 14. Immediately Elvis was smitten with the young girl, even after she told him she was in the ninth grade. Trying to charm her, he played songs for her, ending with Priscilla leaving, not thinking she would ever see the star again. But he persisted. After a few more meetings, Elvis spoke with her parents, and he per swayed Priscilla's parents to allow her to date him with minor restrictions. With her age, Elvis and Priscilla couldn't go public, dating in private, and choosing not to be sexual until their wedding night. He molded Priscilla to be what he wanted her to be: dying her hair, changing her wardrobe, how to wear her makeup, she called herself his "living doll." After multiple affairs from both, Priscilla divorced Elvis, realizing that "my life was his life."
I grew up listening to Elvis, this makes me look at him differently. Was he a predator? A love sick man? Elvis was likely a product of his time, thinking it was okay to be with teenagers. Normal in the 1960's, it's good that society is evolving from glamorizing these kinds of relationships, celebrities or not.
Glam rocker Gary Glitter (real name Paul Gadd) is more well known for his criminal activity than his once spectacular music career. In 1997, Glitter was arrested for being in possession of child pornography. He served four months in prison and had to register as a sex offender in the United Kingdom. Residing in Vietnam, he was seen groping a teenage waitress and leaving with two other teens, leading the nightclub to ban him. In 2005, he was arrested again, this time have a 15 year old girl living with him. Several Vietnamese women, the youngest being 11, accused Glitter of sexually assaulting them. Found guilty, he served three years in prison. In 2015, he was found guilty of attempted rape, indecent assault, and for statutory rape. Gary Glitter is serving 16 years in an England prison. The fall from grace is just as powerful as a prison sentence.
Michael Jackson's sexual assault trials are just as famous as his music. Starting back in 1993, the first accusation hit. A 13 year old boy claimed Jackson had sexually abused him, even claiming they shared the same bed. The case was eventually settled ut of court with a million dollar settlement. In 2003, Jackson was charged with child molestation. After a very publicized trial, Michael Jackson was acquitted of the charges, due to lack of evidence. In 2013, four years after the pop star's death, new charges were brought against Jackson's estate. Choreographer and former friend of Jackson, Wade Robson and James Safechuck claimed they were abused. Wade notably testified in the previous trials in Jackson's defense, but is now saying he lied on the stand because he was terrified and still cared for Jackson. The case was dismissed due to the statute of limitations.
In 2019, a documentary called Leaving Neverland aired to much public interest. Though the public remains divided, both celebrities and civilians, have strong mixed reactions. Friends of the late legend both defending and disowning Jackson, and some companies no longer promoting/selling the singer. We may never know the truth, we all have a stance in this long turmoil, but all we can do is try to look at this case without Hollywood, take the allegations seriously. It's possible it could all be lies and Michael Jackson didn't do anything. It's also possible that he was a predator that got away with it. As a fan of Michael Jackson, it's disheartening to hear so many allegations, how someone you looked up to could be capable of something so horrid.
Celebrities are still people that make choices like the rest of us. They're not immune to scandal or worse. With the growing culture of sexual assault prevention and the fight for law changes, Hollywood is adapting to this culture and is now starting to take responsibilities. Though there's still a lot of work that needs to be done, sexual predators, in Hollywood and elsewhere, are now being noticed and being marked. Let's give the survivors a voice, and silence the assailants.
National Sexual Assault Hotline (available 24/7):